Pros and cons of term limits: Many say elections are the cure

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The Maryland Senate on opening day Jan. 10, 2018. Governor's Office photo

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

Monday’s column, Term limits for lawmakers — a great idea that will never come, produced a lively debate in the comments section and on Facebook.

I’ll intersperse them with some comments and updates of my own.

Norm Gifford: “Unfortunately Len Lazarick. You are right.”

Phyllis Hicks Clark: “Sad but true.”

Carole Fisher: “Elections are for citizens to decide if their elected officials should continue. Don’t take that away from them.”

Del. Haven Shoemaker: “Exactly.”

Bennet Kelley of the Internet Law Center in Los Angeles, said. “It’s been awful in California. You lose all institutional memory, it makes the Governor and lobbyists that more powerful. People start running for their next office, the minute they get in. The leaders of the bodies are people who have served only a few years.”

Larry Levitan, former chair of Senate Budget and Taxation who became a lobbyist: “That’s the real issue. With term limits staff runs the show and that’s not healthy.

Melanie Miller: “Lobbyists run the show with term limits as well! You want that Len Lazarick?

Ed Crawford: “Heck staff runs the show all the time!!!”

Len Lazarick responds: There’s no denying the influence of lobbyists and staff, particularly the senior staff of the Department of Legislative Services and the committees.

On reflection, the most important target is the concentration of power through the long tenure of the presiding officers and committee chairs. Term limits for those positions could easily be handled by the rules of each chamber — no constitutional amendment required. This is what they’ve done in Congress, based on the Contract with America. Hard to see it’s done much good there.

Leslie Hutchinson: “Oh for god’s sake, we have term limits. they are called elections. Ask any politician who has ever lost one, and they will tell you!”

Len Lazarick: “Leslie speaks from experience, as a one-term delegate from eastern Baltimore County. But there are many examples of delegates staying 20 and 30 years without much to show for it. Also, there is little reason for their own constituents to throw out legislators with some power.

Clayton A Mitchell Sr:  “That is a bipartisan I agree with Leslie!”

Denise Riley: “Leslie Hutchinson is correct, elections ARE the term limits. Never give up your right to elect the people you want.”

Glen Grandstaff: “I still do not like ‘Career’ politicians. They get to comfy, stubborn and in many cases in need of being put out to pasture.”

 

Wayne Dowler: “IF they wrote good legislation for the benefit of the many, it could be a good thing for them to stick around. Unfortunately many figure out the money angle and start to work for those that buy their vote, not those that voted for them.”

Evan Greenstein: “I think there are pros and cons on term limits but I know this: end gerrymandering and you’ll get legislators who are more responsive to the needs of their constituents. And if they’re not responsive, they won’t get re-elected. It’s just that simple. In my mom’s district she has to work her ass off. Why? Because she has a hard District and her constituents demand it.”

Brent Pertusio: “Gives power to unelected staff who stay long term.”

Mike Morgan: “No corrupt career politicians!!!! Period.”

Joe Groves: “It works for Governors and the President. It can work for simple Delegates and Senators. Especially when one has been there since 1975.”

David Page: “Term Limits now. It’s a no brainer. 8 years is too long!”

B David Walp: “If we can have a doofus president, we can have term limits. Really goes without saying.”

Bill Anderson: “I think I would prefer a Congress full of newcomers to what we have had. The old timers who’ve served for 30 years control all the committees and pretty much decide what even gets discussed by legislators. New fresh ideas will never see the light of day under these circumstances. In a nutshell New fresh people equates to new fresh ideas.”

Bryan Shuy: “How old were you when the Senate President climbed to his perch atop the Maryland Senate in January 1987?”

Comments on the article at MarylandReporter.com

Small town reporter: “I’m 56, nine years away from retirement, and Joe Vallario and Mike Busch have held state office since I was 12. There have been nine US presidents and eight Maryland governors since. A little excessive maybe?”

Michael Collins: “Term limits for legislators is generally a bad idea. New legislators will rely on long-time staffers for corporate knowledge. They will then leave owing to term limits, where the cycle will be repeated, putting ultimate power in the hands of unelected career staff.

A more effective form of term limits comes from fairly drawn legislative districts. Competitive races would increase turnover and empower the majority in the middle over the extremes at both ends of the political spectrum. That’s probably why politicians fight fair redistricting so hard.”

Small Town Reporter replies to  Michael Collins: “Instead we have long-time legislators with corporate knowledge. What is worse? And most if not all of the lawmakers in MGA have college degrees, many in the field of law, who would adapt to the “process” within a very short learning curve. Many legislators who rise to state office start out in county and municipal government, so they wouldn’t be as green and naive as you assume.”

Snark Twain: “It does not take 4 legislative sessions for a new Delegate or Senator to recognize how the legislature works. If someone takes that long, they deserve to be voted out. I will state that there is an incredible amount of learning going on. A representative may not be fully “earning their keep” in terms of maximum relationship with the other members in the respective bodies. 4 terms or 16 years is also quite long for it allows for the consolidation of power.

1st term one is learning. 2nd term one is “earning”. 3rd term one is owning.

No one should “own” a seat in the General Assembly, although I know someone who tried to buy one with over $500K on three failed attempts.”

Charlie hayward: “The longer these officials serve, the greater they accumulate conflicts of interest. And forty years’ service builds up too many conflicts.

Hogan, instead of trying to sell a term-limits’ amendment he knows will go nowhere, should try to sell the idea that the legislature create budget authority (i.e., appropriate money) for an objective “independent” evaluation of the legislature’s existing conflicts of interest rules against best practices, and an investigation of members’ conflicts (actual or apparent) against those practices. Just $250k (about 0.000008 of last year’s budget) would buy a lot of study and investigation. The report need not name members.

Mary P.: “I think Hogan’s strategy is brilliant. He knows that the incumbent members of the MGA will never agree to it (although I am looking forward to seeing how creative their excuses will be). But supporting term limits will reinforce his image of an “anti-politician” that got him elected in 2014. While MGA members may hate the idea, there is a growing tide of voters who feel very strongly in favor of term limits.”

Dale McNamee: “We do have “term limits”… It’s called voting and Maryland will survive if the lifetime incumbents aren’t re-elected.”

  • Dale McNamee

    I believe in “voting them out” of office if they don’t do their jobs or are crooks…

    But, that requires an active, informed, and involved electorate which seems to missing, given the re-election of incumbents and others…

  • Vidi

    Without term limits, incumbents have an advantage. Many voters are too busy to stay informed and tend to vote for names that are familiar. I know – I used to be an uninformed voter.